What Self-storage Customers Need To Know About Hurricane Season
Written by: StorageUnits.com Editorial Team - Published: May 26, 2023
Millions of people live in areas of the U.S. that are routinely hit by hurricanes. Storage units in states like Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama are most likely to be affected by these massive storms. Water and wind damage from hurricanes can damage or destroy your possessions, including irreplaceable memorabilia or expensive items.
If you rent storage units in these states, it is good to be aware of ways to protect your stored possessions during these dangerous storms. Additionally, you need to know the basics of self-storage insurance coverage and statutes protecting customers from price-gouging by storage providers.
How To Store Your Items Safely During Hurricane Season
Do you live in an area of the country affected by hurricanes? If so, you need to ensure your property in storage is protected from potential wind and water damage brought on by hurricanes. While storage providers have a duty to upkeep their property to prevent leaks, the reality is a major storm can enact massive damage to the premises, leaving your valuable items exposed to the weather. A few simple steps can help property owners like you ensure your possessions are kept safe in self-storage throughout hurricane season.
Use Plastic Bins and Totes
While many items are stored in the cardboard boxes typically used while moving, these boxes are incredibly vulnerable to water damage brought on by hurricanes. Instead of storing your possessions in cardboard or paper boxes, utilize sturdier, waterproof plastic bins and totes to prevent water damage. Even if you only have a few plastic bins, use these to store priority possessions rather than easily-disintegrating cardboard.
Reuse Plastic Bags
Do you have a hoard of plastic grocery bags stuffed under the kitchen sink? If wrapped tightly, these bags are also a great way to protect your smaller belongings from water damage. This is an easy, inexpensive, and sustainable means of hurricane damage prevention. For extra protection, wrap important, expensive, or sentimental items in these plastic bags before placing them in a secured plastic bin.
Cover Larger Items in a Tarp
Do you have items in storage that can’t easily be stored in plastic bags, bins, or totes? Covering larger items such as furniture and appliances in a large tarp can deter some water damage. For additional coverage, place a pallet board beneath to prevent standing water damage. This is an excellent way to protect items like dressers, coffee tables, lawn mowers, kitchen appliances, or power tools.
Visit Your Storage Unit Before and After the Storm
If there is an extreme weather alert in your area, it is a good idea to check in on your storage unit to ensure everything is securely weather-proofed. Where possible, store all items in plastic containers as a preventative measure. When you check on your stored possessions pre-hurricane, you can address these potentially vulnerable areas and raise concerns with the storage company if there are issues in your unit. Speak to your storage provider to learn what their plans are for hurricane damage prevention.
Additionally, you will need to visit your storage unit after the hurricane has passed to assess the damage. One of the most important things to do is to take extensive photos in and around your storage unit. In the event that you need to file a claim with your self-storage insurance company for hurricane damage, photographic before-and-after evidence is invaluable to proving the extent of your losses.
Does Self-Storage Insurance Cover Storm Damage?
Are you protected if hurricane damage affects your storage unit? Self-storage providers are generally not considered responsible for damages caused by hurricanes. This means as a property owner you must ensure your own insurance providers adequately cover your stored property to protect yourself. However, coverage varies greatly between providers, so it is important to keep in mind what your policy does and does not cover.
For example, while the majority of homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies extend to storage units, this isn’t always the case. Even if your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance does cover your storage unit, there are often exceptions for hurricane damages. In many cases, expanded coverage to protect you from these damages can be purchased relatively inexpensively. If you live in an area routinely hit by hurricanes, this may be a wise investment. The best thing to do is evaluate your self-storage unit’s hurricane coverage before a major storm occurs.
What Should Be Stored During Hurricane Season
Are there items around your home that should be stored during hurricane season? First and foremost, any lawn chairs, outdoor furniture, grills, or large yard decorations should be removed. If you do not have space for these items in your home, a rental storage unit is a great option to remove these hazards for the duration of hurricane season. If you do not store these items, they can cause serious damage to you and your neighbors’ homes during a severe storm due to high wind speeds and flooding. Additionally, the items themselves could be destroyed during the storm. Keep alert for incoming hurricane warnings to make sure your outdoor possessions are securely stored before the storm hits.
Consider Vehicle Storage
Have you considered your vehicles when preparing for potential hurricane damage? If you do not have access to a covered garage, parking your vehicle in a rented storage unit can protect your vehicle against the coming storm. The cost of storing your vehicle will likely pale in comparison to the price you will pay if your vehicle is damaged or destroyed during the storm.
While any vehicle is a valued property, some are substantial investments that, if left unprotected, could be lost in a major storm. If you own expensive, collector, or vintage vehicles, this precaution is especially wise. In this case, make sure your self-storage insurance policy covers the full cost of your specialty vehicle.
Price-gouging Statutes Affecting Storage Unit Providers
Unfortunately, some storage unit providers have taken advantage of increased demand for storage units in the aftermath of major disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. In some states, storage unit providers have been found guilty of price-gouging after a major storm. Luckily, there have been multiple price-gouging statutes enacted to protect customers like you.
[State of Louisiana Price-gouging Statute]
Louisiana is the state most affected by severe hurricane damage and the panic-driven price-gouging that often accompanies these storms. To combat this challenge after emergencies like these, Louisiana officials passed a statute to prevent price-gouging during a state of emergency. Self-storage providers who engage in price-gouging in the aftermath of a hurricane could be penalized with a $500 fine, a six-month prison sentence, or both. The provisions of this statute are outlined in section RS 29:732. If you rent a storage unit in the state of Louisiana or are in need of a storage unit to prepare for a coming storm, be aware of this statute to identify potential causes of price-gouging.
[State of Texas Price-gouging Statute]
If you live in a Texas city along the Gulf Coast, you may find yourself and your property vulnerable to incoming hurricanes and other tropical storms. Texas’ statute prohibits price-gouging during “disasters” or a “designated disaster period.” Penalties include a civil penalty of up to $10,000 (per violation of the price-gouging statute). If a self-storage unit victimizes an elderly person by price-gouging their units, they could be fined an additional penalty of up to $250,000. If you need to report a storage provider who is engaging in price-gouging, contact the Office of the Attorney General.
[State of South Carolina Price-gouging Statute]
South Carolina’s beautiful beaches and coastal cities are regularly ravaged by severe hurricanes. The state of South Carolina enacted a statute that prohibits price-gouging during a “state of emergency or disaster.” The price-gouging statute (SC 39-5-145) outlines penalties for excessive pricing; these include a potential $1,000 fine, a month-long stay in jail, or both. Self-storage units are specifically mentioned in the statute, making sure current and potential tenants are protected from price-gouging after a hurricane. To learn more about this statute and how to report price gouging of self-storage units, visit the South Carolina Attorney General’s price gouging page.